Our Jar of "Best Thinking": A Fun Idea for State-Testing Time

My third graders begin taking their standardized state-tests this week. Since third grade is the first year for these tests in Indiana, my kids are understandably a bit nervous. No matter how much I try to reassure them that they are going to kick that test's booty prepared, who can blame them for having some anxiety? It usually comes with the 'things-we've-never-done-before' territory.

So here's a little idea I'm going to try this year to hopefully give my students a little extra boost of confidence. It's our jar of "best thinking."

I took a glass jar with an air tight lid, similar to a mason jar, and wrapped it with a strip of scrapbook paper. Then I attached a label to show the jar's significance.

Now keep in mind, there's nothing actually inside the jar--no glitter, no marbles, no perfume. So here's my plan:

In the morning, before we begin our testing, I'll pull out this jar and tell the class, "Over the year, I've been secretly collecting your best thinking. This jar may look like just an empty, ordinary jar, but that would be a mistake. I've captured some of your most brilliant ideas in this jar. Each time our class has had a deep discussion, or solved a doozy of a problem, or written an excellent story, I've saved just a little bit of the air that surrounded it.  And now, I'm going to release some of it into this room; this classroom is going to be filled with our best thinking. Just in case you need any of it during the test today, it will be floating around, waiting to help you out."

You can pick up a copy of the "Jar of Best Thinking" label by clicking HERE or on the image below.


And here's an alternative I might try the next day:

"Class, as you can see, our jar is full of pencils this morning. I thought it might be a good idea to 'soak' our testing-pencils in our jar of best thinking. So they've been soaking all night long for you. And I think they are now ready to go. Go ahead, take one."

Okay, so a bit silly? Probably. But I think I'll at least get some smiles. Some sighs of relief. Maybe a couple of, "Oh, Mr. F., that's crazy!" And maybe, just maybe, all of our very best thinking from the whole year will be there in our room, available for all. You never know.


  1. This is such a great idea! Especially the pencil soaking!! What a sweet idea to help relieve some stress!! Thanks for sharing!!

    Katie :)
    KTP: Keep Teaching and Planning!

  2. I have a small container with a label" brain Batteries", and I tell the class that every now and then we have to replace those batteries in our brains! So they can go up to the container any time they feel they need to. On big projects or tests, I walk around the room and ask students it they want to replace their batteries before the test so they are 100% charged.

  3. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. I like this article, It seems to be very interesting and can be very useful. I will keep this in mind, thanks for sharing Michael.

  5. I am an part time English teacher and this idea can truly help me. Thanks!
    Commercial construction for the South East QLD

  6. I love this idea. I'm going to try it with my Grade 5 class in May during our National testing in Australia. Thank you. I'm sure my kids will be calling me crazy again, but I know that's what they love most about me!


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